Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 27.88970°N / 87.94310°E
Additional Information Elevation: 27765 ft / 8463 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Makalu, West Pillar
Makalu as seen from 3rd Step on Everest

Makalu, the world's fifth highest peak in the world rising to 27,765 feet (8,463 meters). This beautiful and impressive massive is situated just 14 miles east of Everest in the Khumbu region. Its size alone is impressive, but its perfect pyramid structure with four sharp ridges makes this mountain all the more spectacular. Makalu is actually a double peak. The subsidary peak rising just north of the main summit connected by a saddle is called Chomolonzo (25,650 ft.) It is interesting to note that the summit ridge is the demarcation point indicating the border between Nepal on the Southern side and Tibet to the North.

The name of the mountain was probably taken from the Sanskrit word Maha-Kala, which means Big Black and is a by-name of Shiva - one of the most important gods of Hinduism. Shiva is sometimes an evil, cruel destroyer but at other times he tends to be gentle and kind-hearted. The mountain has another name in the local dialect - Kumba karna, which means The Giant.

Makalu has proved to be a challenging climb, as only five of its first sixteen attempts were successful. To date, there have been a total of 206 successful ascents of Makalu and a total of 22 fatalities.

Prior to its first ascent in 1955, it was admired and studied by several Everest expeditions, but like a lot of other giants in the Khumbu region, it was not attempted until the summit of Everest was first ascended in 1953.




First and Notable Ascents/Routes

Currently Completed Routes

North West Ridge / North Col. South East Ridge South Face South West Face West Pillar Route West Ridge West Face**
**  The West Face has proved to be the most difficult.  After 7 failed attempts on this route, it was finally completed on May 21, 1997 by a Russian team.
Year Notable Attempts/Ascents of Makalu
1954 First attempts of ascents: American mountaineers leaded by W. Seyra climbed up to 7100 m via the Southern ridge. Britain mountaineers reached 6 500 m in the direction to the North col. French mountaineers reached North-East summit of Makalu 7600 m.
1955 May 15 Jean Couzy and Lionel Terray summitted Makalu via the North col.
1961 Britain expedition reached 8350 m via the North col.
1970 Japanese mountaineers Ch. Takanaka and I. Otsaki climbed South-East ridge of Makalu.
1971 West ridge was climbed. Members of French expedition Yannick Seigneur and B. Millet summited the top (leader of the expedition - R. Paragot).
1973 Makalu, South face was climbed. (Czech expedition, leaded by Ivan Galfi).
Yugoslov team makes successful climb of a new route on the south faceMore information
1976 Makalu, South-West face was climbed via the buttress (Czech expedition, leaded by Ivan Galfi). The climbers reached the top: M. Krissak , K. Shubert and Spaniard J. Kamprubi.
1977 An expedition from February to May of 1977 was the first attempt to climb the West Face.  The expedition was organized out of Boulder, Colorado and members included Jeff Long as leader, James H. Willis, Mike Lowe, Lanny Johnson, Richard Collins, and Edwin Drummond among others.  The team was defeated by rockfall, avalanche  and altitude sickness after establishing the highest camp of about 23,000 feet where the hanging glacier meets the final vertical rock face.  This expedition was the first to pack out all of its trash after the attempt.  Thanks to the team physician sierranvin for this information.
1980 The first US team to summit was in 1980. The team was made up of Jim States, John Roskelley, Kim Momb and Chris Kopczynski. They summited 2 members of the team and put 2 members within 150 feet. They summited without the use of oxygen or Sherpa support via the West Pillar Route.
1981 (Spring) Second attempt to climb the Makalu, West Face. Two men team of Polish climber Wojtek Kurtyka  and English climber Alex MacIntyre reached 6 800 m.
1981 (autumn) Third attempt - West Face: Jerzy Kukuczka, Wojtek Kurtyka  and English climber Alex MacIntyre got acclimatization climbing the north col. (8000 m), went on West face and reached 7600 m.
1981 (autumn) After the unsuccessful attempt to climb West face Kukuczka successfully soloed North-West buttress.
1982 The fourth attempt of climb the West face. Swiss expedition of R. Nattarice tried to climb West ridge (up to 7400 m), then they went to West face and climbed up to 7700 m toward the North buttress.  Andrzej Czok a member of Polish expedition lead by Adam Bilczewskin climbed the West Face.
1986 Krzysztof Wielicki and Marcel Ruedi climbed the new variation of normal route.  Ruedi died during the descent.
1990 For the first time a woman climbed the West ridge as a member of American expedition, via one of the most difficult routes up to 8000 m. Kitty Calhoun-Grissom and John Schutt reached the summit on 18th of May.
1991 A two men team (E. Loretan and D. Troillet) climbed the West ridge. They left the base camp (5300 m) on 1st of October, had a bivi in the Spain camp at the altitude of 7400 m and on October 2nd reached the summit.
1992 Fifth attempt of climbing the Makalu, West face. A Britain expedition leaded by N. Masson. They reached 7000 m.
1993 Sixth attempt - Makalu, West face. A famous rockclimber Catherine Destivelle and E. Decamp and American mountaineer D. Low tried to ascend first via the North-West buttress then after the unsuccessful attempt went on the West face.
1996 Seventh attempt - Makalu, West face. Mountain team from Novokuznetsk city after their ascending Makalu via the classical route.
1997 The West face was successfully summited! The Russian expedition to the West Face of Makalu, leaded by Sergey Efimov climbed the top on 21st of May via the most difficult route. The last part of the route went on Parago ridge. Climbed to the top: Alexei Bolotov, Yuri Ermachek, Dmitri Pavlenko, Igor Bugachevski and Nikolai Jiline. For this ascent they were awarded the "Gold ice-axe".
2001 Sherpa Lhakpa Dorje became the first climber in history to summit Makalu twice.
On or about January 27th, French mountaineer Jean-Christophe Lafaille disappeared on Makalu while attempting to make the first winter ascent.
On February 9th, Italian Simone Moro and Kazakh Denis Urubko became the first people to make a successful winter ascent of Makalu.  This was the final Nepali 8000 meter peak to be climbed in the winter.  (Thanks to dmiki for this information)



Getting There

Hongu Chuli, Upper Hongu Valley

Fly either over Europe to New Delhi or Bombay, the connect to Kathmandu. British Airways, Air France, Swiss Air, Air India, are only a few of the Airlines that can get you to New Delhi. Then its Royal Air Nepal or Indian Airlines to Kathmandu. Or Fly to Bangkok Thailand and connect to Kathmandu. The Arrive in Kathmandu and trek 14 days to Makalu Base Camp.


Red Tape

Peak permits are required. For more information, contact Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area Liaison Office, PO Box 2785, Nag Pokhari, Kathmandu, Nepal. The current rates are as follows:

Royalty: US $ 10,000 for a team up to 7 Members. And for each additional Member US $ 1,500 up to total of 12 Members in a team).
Garbage Deposit: US $ 3,000 (it is refundable)
Liaison Officer: US $1,500 - 2,000 (Negotiable)
Climbing Sherpa (Each): US $1,200 -1,500 (Negotiable)


When To Climb

April and May are pre monsoon season. Late September and October are post monsoon season.


Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area

Makalu is situated in the Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area which was established in 1992 as Nepal's eighth national park and the first to include an adjacent inhabited conservation area as a buffer. Covering 2,330 sq km, Makalu-Barun is a vital component of the greater Mount Everest ecosystem which includes Nepal's 1,148 sq km Sagarmatha National Park to the west and the 35,000 sq km Qomolangma Nature Reserve in Occupied Tibet to the north. Most of the Makalu-Barun National Park is a remote wilderness, with just two small settlements and seasonal herding in high pastures. The incredibly steep topography and abundant monsoon rains (1000 to 4000 nm per year) of the eastern Himalaya support unusually diverse bioclimatic zones and a rich store house of medicinal and useful plants. Alpine pastures above 4000m contian the religiously important dwarf rhododendron and juniper, aromatic herbs and delicate wildflowers. Sub-alpine forests of fir, birch, and rhododendron, and temperate stands of oak, maple and magnolia thrive between 2-4000m. Luxuriant orchids drape the chestnut and pine forests of the subtropical zone (1-2000m), and sal forests reach their northernmost limit within Nepal along the banks of the Arun (below 1000m).

For the naturalist, Makalu-Barun area provides spectacular displays of wild flowers and exotic plants. More than 3000 species of flowering plants, with hundreds of orchid varieties, 48 primroses, and 25 of Nepal's 30 rhododendrons splash the hillsides with color. The forests shelter abundant wildlife, including the endangered red panda and muskdeer as well as the ghoral, Himalayan tahr and leopard. Ornithologists have identified 400 bird species, at least 16 of which are extremely rare.

The Author - Courtesy of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, HMG Nepal For more information, contact Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area Liaison Office, PO Box 2785, Nag Pokhari, Kathmandu, Nepal


External Links

  • Makalu Adventure Treks
    A link to your Nepal Treking Adventure.
  • 2004 British Team Attempt
    Follow the 2004 British team as they attempt Makalu.
  • Summit Day Blog
    Summit Posts very own Roland Hunters blog on his summit day - 2009



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